14 January 2015

The Wall Street Journal

Actor Returns to the Cooking Channel, Lands a ‘Younger’ Role
Gabriele Corcos, Debi Mazar and their daughter Giulia in the kitchen during an episode of ‘Extra Virgin.’
By KARA MAYER ROBINSON

Maybe because of her icy blue eyes, her thick New York accent or the no-nonsense Hollywood publicist she played on HBO’s “Entourage,” you could get the wrong impression of Debi Mazar.
 
“People think I’m this tough-ass,” the actress said last month during an interview at her Brooklyn home.
 
Ms. Mazar, 50 years old, who currently co-hosts the cooking show “Extra Virgin” with her husband, the Italian chef Gabriele Corcos, said she is actually a pussycat in a lion’s body. She described herself as sensitive and private but also driven.
 
“I’m very hard on myself, and I always want to work,” said Ms. Mazar, who has appeared in nearly 100 films and television shows, including “Malcolm X” and “Bullets Over Broadway.”
 
In “Extra Virgin,” which returned to the Cooking Channel this month, Ms. Mazar reveals her lighter side, bantering with Mr. Corcos, 42, as they travel, shop and prepare Tuscan peasant food for family and friends. Some episodes are filmed at their home in Tuscany, where they spend summers, while others showcase New York, where they live with their daughters Evelina, 12, and Giulia, 8.
 
The show began as a series of YouTube videos the couple made independently. Food Network noticed and offered them a series on its fledgling channel. Ms. Mazar and Mr. Corcos remain at the helm, creating the recipes and writing each episode.
 
“Part of our plan has been to introduce viewers to the food side of their favorite stars,” said Michael Smith , Cooking Channel’s general manager and senior vice president. “I had been a fan of Debi as an actress from all her great movie and TV work, and I was very impressed by Gabriele’s culinary talents. Then add in their two beautiful daughters and you have an authentic family love story that everyone can relate to.”
 
Ms. Mazar, who grew up in Queens, began her career as a makeup artist for Broadway shows and music videos but had other aspirations.
 
“I wanted to cross over,” she said. “I’d be in the theater, thinking ‘I don’t want to be backstage.’ So I started taking acting lessons between jobs. Then I got the bug.”
 
After she broke through as Ray Liotta ’s drug-addled mistress in “Goodfellas,” she moved to Los Angeles, where she stayed for 20 years. But for her and her family, the city eventually lost its cachet.
 
“The school there was fantastic, but it created expectations of a lifestyle that, even if I could provide it, I would refuse to,” Mr. Corcos said. “We had a 60-inch plasma screen TV with surround sound in a massive living room. My daughter used to come back from school saying, ‘How come we don’t have a screening room’ It’s because she was in class with Don Johnson ’s kid.”
 
They decided to return to New York, which also enticed Ms. Mazar professionally. Even though there are fewer TV and film jobs, she believes she does her best work here.
 
Since moving back in 2012, she has landed on her feet. In addition to “Extra Virgin,” she will soon appear in “Younger,” a new series by “Sex and the City” creator Darren Star that will have its premiere March 31 on TV Land.
 
Filmed mostly in Brooklyn, “Younger” stars Sutton Foster as a 40-year-old single mother who gets back into the workforce by pretending to be 10 years younger. Ms. Mazar plays the best friend, whom Mr. Star described as “the devil on the shoulder of Sutton Foster’s character, encouraging her to outrageously reinvent her life following a bad divorce.”
 
As a 50-year-old actor, Ms. Mazar can relate. She recalled walking into the audition room filled with 20-year-olds.
 
“They’re worried because I’m famous and I’ve been around. I’m worried because they’re young and they’re not famous and they’re a good ‘new’ idea,” she said. “The good news is my acting chops won, and I got this role playing 10 years younger.”
 
Mr. Star said he had wanted to work with Ms. Mazar for years. “She brings heart, humor and New York soul to everything she does,” he said. “She also makes a mean spaghetti amatriciana.”
 
Being back in New York affords Ms. Mazar the more grounded lifestyle that she prefers, letting her spend most evenings at home with Mr. Corcos—preparing dinner, braiding the girls’ hair and working their way through their DVR queue.
 
“I don’t like going out. I don’t hang out in the Hollywood scene,” she said. “I enjoy acting. I just don’t see why I have to play the game.”

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